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EPA Homeland Security Research: About this Issue

A Note from EPA's National Program Director for Homeland Security Research

Photo of World Trade Center Memorial Tribute in Light in New York City.

The images that most people associate with homeland security are immediately dramatic: the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, biohazard-suit-clad decontamination teams, and the now iconic scenes that unfolded during the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Since that time, EPA scientists and engineers, working collaboratively with Agency emergency response and field personnel, water utility professionals, and research partners from across the federal government and beyond, have been working vigilantly to focus our collective response on making the nation more secure, better prepared, and increasingly resilient.

Together, this great team is helping advance national security in ways that greatly enhance our capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents and other catastrophes.  And we are doing so in ways that not only advance homeland security, but build a scientific foundation that helps local communities become more resilient in the face of disruption, be it a deliberate act or unwelcome natural occurrence.

EPA plays a critical role in protecting the nation’s drinking water and the related water distribution and treatment infrastructure, and in advancing the capability to respond to, and clean up from, large-scale incidents involving chemical, biological, or radiological contamination agents.

Such responsibilities include developing the tools, methods, and techniques needed to: determine whether an attack has happened, characterize the impacts of environmental disasters, and control contamination. In addition, EPA researchers work to develop ways to assess environmental and health risks related to these incidents and clean up operations, and to effectively communicate those risks with, decision makers, affected community residents, and other stakeholders.  

Just a small sampling of that collaborative effort is highlighted in this issue of EPA’s Science Matters.  Highlighted are stories about how EPA researchers and their partners are exploring ways to decontaminate buildings from the bacteria that causes anthrax, developing models and protocols on how to better monitor and protect drinking water supplies and pipelines, and how to better support large-scale clean up and waste disposal operations following a large area contamination incident.

Those projects and others are improving the nation’s response capability and helping replace pictures once dominated by tragedy and destruction into an ongoing story of resiliency and preparedness. I invite you to read the following stories, and continue to learn more about EPA homeland security research on our web site at: http://www.epa.gov/nhsrc/index.html.

Gregory Sayles, Ph.D.
EPA National Homeland Security Research Center

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